Transforming the Library into a Dynamic Learning Commons

Hood students studying in the renovated library and learning commons.

Part two of the feature story in Hood Magazine fall 2023.

Forging the Future: The Campaign for Hood College

The first campaign priority to be completed was the $7.5 million renovation of the Beneficial-Hodson Library and Learning Commons, which was funded with significant support from The Hodson Trust and a State of Maryland grant. The building underwent a dramatic transformation, inside and out. 

The updated interior features an open-concept first floor, flanked by massive curtain windows that flood the space with natural light. The spacious lobby is complemented by a self-service cafe. Rows of computers are stationed near group study pods next to the Student Success Center and IT Services.

Don’t expect anyone to “shush” you at this library. Designed to be a welcoming environment where collaboration is encouraged, student services are on full display. “When we were first planning, we thought tutoring needed to be more private, but my thought process has flipped,” says Toby Peterson, library director. “Students see classmates getting tutored or studying, so then they themselves want to get tutoring or book a study pod.” 

The multi-use study pods have proven to be one of the most popular additions. Originally, the building had only eight study rooms—now there are 22. Some are larger and more business oriented. Others are intended as casual spaces for small groups. Students enjoy the floor-to-ceiling whiteboards and the ability to have privacy without being totally closed off. Peterson says these study pods are almost constantly filled. 

The building underwent a major technological overhaul. Many rooms are equipped with state-of- the-art projectors or share-screens for video calls and presentations. Even the furnishings have built-in technology, such as lighting fixtures that can sense exterior sunlight and automatically adjust. These smart-tech enhancements make the building more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. An added bonus is that with sophisticated temperature control and museum-quality storage, Hood’s history is being preserved better than ever before, while the special collections reading room has made the archives more accessible. 

The spring 2023 semester was the busiest on record. There’s also more teaching than ever happening at the library, thanks in part to staff restructuring that has enabled reference librarians to work more directly with students. The Student Success Center saw more than 100 students receive tutoring in a variety of subjects. Doctoral classes are held exclusively in the library as well. 

Centralizing academic support services in a single location— student success, accessibility, IT, the archives and the library—has allowed for cross-departmental collaboration, benefiting students, faculty and staff alike. The library hours have now been extended, with students given 24-hour access. 

“The space gives equitable access across the board,” says Peterson. “It’s a place you want to be.”

Read the full issue of Hood Magazine here.